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The Algerian war and the ‘emancipation’ of Muslim women, 1954–62

In May 1958, and four years into the Algerian War of Independence, a revolt again appropriated the revolutionary and republican symbolism of the French Revolution by seizing power through a Committee of Public Safety. This book explores why a repressive colonial system that had for over a century maintained the material and intellectual backwardness of Algerian women now turned to an extensive programme of 'emancipation'. After a brief background sketch of the situation of Algerian women during the post-war decade, it discusses the various factors contributed to the emergence of the first significant women's organisations in the main urban centres. It was only after the outbreak of the rebellion in 1954 and the arrival of many hundreds of wives of army officers that the model of female interventionism became dramatically activated. The French military intervention in Algeria during 1954-1962 derived its force from the Orientalist current in European colonialism and also seemed to foreshadow the revival of global Islamophobia after 1979 and the eventual moves to 'liberate' Muslim societies by US-led neo-imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the women of Bordj Okhriss, as throughout Algeria, the French army represented a dangerous and powerful force associated with mass destruction, brutality and rape. The central contradiction facing the mobile socio-medical teams teams was how to gain the trust of Algerian women and to bring them social progress and emancipation when they themselves were part of an army that had destroyed their villages and driven them into refugee camps.

Joy Damousi

’. From this prevalence it follows that, ‘in times of stress, even the most liberal and enlightened may regress to racist stereotypes and preconceptions’. The psychological and psychiatric assessment was easily made. Racism was to be found in ‘residuals of a very early phase of development in which images of others and self-images are regarded as “all good” or “all bad”’. [The] more completely this split persists, the less subject it is to rational modification. The blatant racist preserves an essentially ‘all good’ image of himself, which he protects from contamination

in A history of the case study
The origins of the Algerian women’s movement, 1945–54
Neil Macmaster

borders.15 Equally significant was the fact that between c. 1900 and 1944 the debate on the issues facing Algerian women was monopolised by metropolitan and colonial Frenchwomen.16 French feminists like Hubertine Auclert had, since 1900, engaged in a campaign for the emancipation of Muslim women who were perceived through Orientalist and racist stereotypes as degraded victims of child-marriage, veiling, seclusion, polygamy, repudiation and ‘feudal’ patriarchy.17 French feminists, such as the lawyers Maria Vérone and Suzanne Grinberg, were active within the Union

in Burning the veil